Best Best & Krieger LLP

The California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery issued proposed regulations to reduce organic waste in landfills as required by Senate Bill 1383. The bill directed CalRecycle to adopt regulations to reduce organic waste by 50 percent from its 2014 baseline level by 2020 and 75 percent by 2025. SB 1383 also requires the regulations to recover, for human consumption, at least 20 percent of edible food that is currently thrown away.
The proposed regulations, issued Jan. 18, will impose significant administrative requirements on local agencies. They must implement programs requiring organic waste generators (those who initially create organic waste) and haulers (those who transport solid waste to a solid waste facility) to comply with CalRecycle regulations. Local agencies that do not comply with the regulations may face hefty penalties or enforcement action.
While the proposed regulations would not take effect until Jan. 1, 2022, cities, counties or special districts providing solid waste handling services should review the proposed regulations and provide public comment during the 45-day comment period that ends March 4. All related rulemaking documents and information on how to submit public comment can be found here. Below are some of the key provisions affecting local agencies:

  • Organic Waste Collection: Local agencies with two- or three-container waste collection services must collect organic waste such as food, green material, paper and wood in a green container and label the container (CalRecycle will provide a model notice). A local agency can require additional separation of organic waste by using a split container to divide yard waste in a green container and food waste in a yellow container. The organic waste must be transported to a facility that processes and recovers organic waste content. If a container combines both organic and non-organic waste, the containers must be transported to a high-diversion organic waste processing facility for sorting and recovery of organic waste from mixed waste. Local agencies must monitor compliance with organic waste disposal requirements and randomly inspect organic waste containers. Agencies must contact violators for failing to sort organic waste and, beginning in 2024, may impose penalties on individuals or businesses that contaminate organic waste bins with non-organic waste.
  • Waivers: Incorporated cities with a population of less than 5,000 people, counties with unincorporated areas of less than 50 people per square mile or rural jurisdictions may obtain waivers from organic waste collection requirements from CalRecycle.
  • Mandatory Outreach Materials: Local agencies must provide education and outreach information to organic waste generators. Where more than 5 percent of organic waste generators are defined as “limited English-speaking households,” local agencies must provide the information in a language that those generators understand.
  • Organic Waste Recycling Capacity Planning: Counties, in coordination with cities and regional agencies, must estimate the amount of organic waste that will be disposed of, identify existing recycling infrastructure capacity and estimate new or expanded facilities that will be needed to process organic waste. Cities and regional agencies must respond to a county’s request for information within 120 days. If the county determines additional capacity is required, the city or regional agency must submit an implementation schedule to CalRecycle on how it will meet that capacity.
  • Edible Food Recovery Program: Local agencies must develop an edible food recovery education and outreach program and provide commercial businesses that generate edible food an annual notice that includes information on how to find edible food recovery organizations to which they can donate food. Local agencies must maintain a list of food recovery organizations and services in its jurisdiction and post it on its website.
  • Procurement Targets of Recovered Organic Waste: Local agencies must procure or buy recycled compost and renewable transportation fuel in a quantity that meets an annual recovered organic waste procurement target. The target will be established by CalRecycle for each local agency and recalculated every 5 years.
  • Extensive Annual Reporting Requirements: Local agencies must submit annual reports relating to organic waste collection efforts, contamination monitoring requirements, waivers, education and outreach, hauler oversight requirements, implementation of California Green Building Standards, edible food recovery requirements, organic waste and edible food recovery capacity planning requirements, procurement requirements of recovered organic waste products, and compliance, monitoring and enforcement requirements.
  • Implementation Record: Local agencies must maintain all records for compliance efforts listed above, in addition to ordinances, contracts, and agreements. Records must be updated within 30 days of a reporting period, made available to CalRecycle within 1 business day upon request, and retained for 5 years.
  • CalRecycle Oversight of Local Agencies: CalRecycle will evaluate a local agency’s compliance and provide written findings to the agency. If a local agency’s ordinance is inconsistent with CalRecycle regulations, the agency has 90 days to cure the deficiency or face enforcement action. If a local agency commits a regulatory violation, CalRecycle can issue a Notice of Violation, provide a 180-day cure period, issue a Corrective Action Plan and impose penalties.
  • Steep Administrative Penalties Against Local Agencies: CalRecycle can also impose administrative penalties on local agencies for noncompliance. Base penalties vary depending on the type and frequency of violations.  Base fines range from $50 to $10,000 per day for each type of violation.
  • Enforcement Program: Local agencies must adopt enforceable ordinances or mechanisms by Jan. 1, 2022 and establish an enforcement program that requires commercial and residential organic waste generators to comply with organic waste requirements. If a violation occurs between Jan. 1, 2022 and Dec. 31, 2023, local agencies must provide violators with educational materials. If a violation occurs after Jan. 1, 2024, local agencies may take enforcement action against the violator.
  • Local Agencies to Impose Fines Against Violator: The regulations require local agencies to impose fines against noncompliant generators and haulers that are equal to, or stricter than, the base penalties established by the regulations. The base penalties range from $50 to $500 per type of violation, and take effect in January 2024.

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